There is no free in liberty.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Yosemite - Day 4 - 7/1/2009

Sometimes I feel like our National Parks rely too heavily on rules to guide their visitors past their sights. Every park we visit has some meaningless rule that some equally meaningless bureaucrat has thought up to validate their job. After visiting so many parks I find many of the rules irritating, and this irritation is only made worse by understanding that they are often tacitly enforced by the heavy and distant hand of federal law. My wife, of course, thinks I'm nuts, and she has a point. After all, we are in....Yosemite.

For whatever reason, at one point this irritation was percolating within me as we boarded one of the Yosemite buses. One of the ubiquitous rule signs caught my eye. This time it took the form of a series of three crude doodles. The first was a dog, circled with a line through it, the last was a picture of a radio, also circled with a line through it, but the second was cryptic. I turned to Trey.

"Look." I said. "The park says we can't have a dog on the bus, or a radio, and apparently they don't like lumpy things either."

"Lumpy things" sent Trey into fits of laughter, a laughter that seemed to feed on itself. His laughter must have lasted for ten minutes, tapering off only after another ten minutes of sporadic chuckles. Other humorous events during the trip seemed to be filtering through his thoughts. It was great!

Rules....Silver linings. Heh.

No buses were in our plans for the day. Although we have found the buses useful for valley floor exploration, we intended to leave the valley for the day and we wanted the freedom that comes with our own transportation.

When we entered Yosemite days earlier we drove past some of the most stunning locations I have ever seen, but we continued without stopping to experience them. At the time we didn't know how long it would take us to get to our campsite, and we didn't know if our reservations were going to work. We expected the six month old reservations to be fine, but anything can happen and getting to the campground before the help retires for the night is helpful in the event of the unthinkable. We intended to fix this oversight by going back and having a picnic in Tuolumne Meadows at round 10,000 feet.

After a few morning chores we loaded up and cranked the van for the first time in two days. If things went well two hours driving would get us to Tuolumne Meadows and by noon we would be picnicking. Not long after leaving we came upon a random gathering of haphazardly parked cars and people trotting along the side of the road with camera in hand. Yep, modern 'bear sign'! : ) The campground bears were more exciting, but these had sunlight on them. One was brown, the other was blond and looked like a rock. Unfortunately the camera had a preference for focusing on nearby trees rather than the bears. Whatever. Kat and I are not David Attenborough. After visiting the bears we missed a right-hand turn, (The turn shows up in the photo touching the upper-right portion of this paragraph.) due to the disturbance caused by the bears. Within a few miles we realized our mistake and doubled back. A little later we caught some pictures of Tenaya Lake in the distance.

Later we got to the park entrance we had used days earlier but tuned around before exiting. We didn't want to wait in the traffic to get back in. The area near the entrance is one that I find particularly attractive. I enjoyed the Scottish feel that the rocky field offered up. Parking was difficult, though; there wasn't enough of it along that section. Some pullouts were closed for revitalization. We drove on and found another pull off that had space for us. I enjoy aesthetic moments and usually try to stop let them wash over me when they present themselves. Never, though, have I had the fortune to experience an extended aesthetic moment.....

The picnic didn't go quite as planned. When we opened the cooler all that remained of the sandwich meat were empty containers. The upside? We didn't have to feed Trey as he was not hungry. Note: Don't travel with a cooler next to a hungry, sneaky child. He did, however, leave behind plenty of mayo, and bread. We also had potato chips as they had somehow eluded him. We all liked the resulting sandwiches just fine.

After a little lounging we rolled on to the next stop, Tenaya Lake. I toed at the water, but it was cold so Kat and I retreated to some shade and watched the kids play in the water. They found the snow melt to their liking. Trey found a piece of wood he dubbed a "Doom Ship" and in short order the other two had their own as well. All three fully immersed themselves at various times, sometimes accidentally. Eventually Ian returned to us with blue lips followed soon after by Elise. They were cold. Trey was a trooper and kept playing shin deep. Once back at the van we kept the heat pumping until the children warmed up.

Still working.....

On our way back to our last night in Upper Pines we made a random stop at Swinging Bridge for a little more swimming. Trey and I were the first to start across Swinging Bridge. It gave an excellent point from which to photograph Yosemite Falls. I stopped Trey to grab a picture with him in the foreground, Yosemite Falls, the Merced and some rafters in the background. The first two attempts were poor, as he was not in the mood for yet another picture. What to do? In a moment of clarity I said "Think about lumpy things." It worked. It worked well. Another silver lining from that cloud of rules. Lumpy things. : )

Kat caught up with me while I watched Trey make his way down to the river. I tried to get photos of the rest of the family from the bridge but 'lumpy things' didn't have the same effect on them. Oh well. I joined Trey who was now swimming in the cold water playing some form of water tag with kids who had water guns. He was getting pounded and loving it. I wadded out only ankle deep and Elise joined me. Kat watched from the shore holding a still chilled and tired Ian in towel.

Still working...............

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of The Union Take Away..."Not True." Justice Alito

During the State of The Union speech by President Obama our President chastised the Supreme Court over a recent ruling concerning corporate free speech. Our President went so far as to call on congress to do something about it.

President Obama:

"...Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said. "Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."

Very unseemly, verging on intimidation and President Obama's "With all due deference to separation of powers" set up does not make it all OK. This is a breech of decorum and possible trespass of balance of power.

But is Justice Alito's reaction accurate? From Brad Smith:

The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making "a contribution or donation of money or anything of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election" under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any "expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication... ."

It seems the President was misinformed and, as such, his statement that foreign corporations will be able to participate in our electoral process was not true.

Lastly, I am afraid this embarrassment will be the takeaway from President Obama's State of The Union speech and all else President Obama was attempting to achieve in his speech will be lost to his oafishness.



Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Maidens and Guillotines ...................... ***Bumped and Updated***

This statement from Pelosi makes it appear that the bill that forces individual mandates in health care is dead...


"In its present form without any changes I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House," Pelosi said, adding, "I don't see the votes for it at this time."

That seemed to me to be a smart and conciliatory move on Pelosi's part, but then I read this:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, tells National Review Online that House Democrats are planning to use the budget-reconciliation process in order to pass Obamacare. “They’re meeting with each other this weekend to pursue it,” says Ryan. “I’ve spoken with many Democrats and the message is this: They’re not ready to give up.
Must. Not. Stop. .... Must. Not. Stop. .... Must. Not. Stop.
Pelosi is not doing herself, her party, or our country any good with this.

I can only guess she feels that with the damage done, she should at least have the goods. But can this maiden lead her flock to the guillotine?

Update: Must. Not. Stop.

Well, new news on a Sunday night from Dick Morris, so take it with that in mind. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have a plan to push their so called health care plan through on the greased skids of a distorted legislative process.

Here's what I learned top Democrats are planning to implement.

Senate Democrats will go to the House with a two-part deal.

First, the House will pass the Senate's Obamacare bill that passed the Senate in December. The House leadership will vote on the Senate bill, and Pelosi will allow no amendments or modifications to the Senate bill.

How will Pelosi's deal fly with rambunctious liberal members of her majority that don't like the Senate bill, especially its failure to include a public option, put heavy fines on those who don't get insurance and offering no income tax surcharge on the "rich"?

That's where the second part of the Pelosi-deal comes in.

Behind closed doors Reid and Pelosi have agreed in principle that changes to the Senate bill will be made to satisfy liberal House members -- but only after the Senate bill is passed and signed into law by Obama.

This deal will be secured by a pledge from Reid and the Senate's Democratic caucus that they will make "fixes" to the Senate bill after it becomes law with Obama's John Hancock.

But you may ask what about the fact that without Republican Scott Brown and independent Democrats like Joe Lieberman, Reid simply doesn't have the 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster that typically can stop major legislation?

According to my source, Reid will provide to Pelosi a letter signed by 52 Democratic Senators indicating they will pass the major changes, or "fixes", the House Democrats are demanding. Again, these fixes will be approved by the Senate only after Obama signs the Senate bill into law.

Reid has also agreed to bypass Senate cloture and filibuster rules and claim that these modifications fall under "reconciliation" and don't require 60 Senate votes.

To pass the fixes, he won't need one Republican, he won't even need Joe Lieberman or wavering Democrats like Jim Webb of Virginia.

His 52 pledged Senators give him a simple majority to pass any changes they want, which will later be rubberstamped by Pelosi's House and signed by Obama.

This plan, of course, is a total subversion of the legislative process.


Do political parties survive these sorts of shenanigans?


Saturday, January 23, 2010

This weekend I am visiting my mother-in-law to celebrate a belated Christmas with my wife and children. Our normal route takes us up Lover's Leap in Virginia and across the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lover's Leap surprised us with a thick layer of ice on the vegetation and many downed trees. We stopped for pictures.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is within ten miles of Lover's Leap and with the weather being more interesting than normal we decided to visit Mabry Mill. The Mill is closed this time of year as are many sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so getting to the Mill was iffy. Mabry Mill is very close to an entrance to the Parkway, though, so we took our chances. There were icy patches on the road but not enough to worry with. A few picture ensued.